My husband's aunt lived in Washington, D.C., for several years. Through researching some of the early Stuart settlers in this country, she found the history of the first Stuart to immigrate to the land of opportunity, the United States. His first name wasn't mentioned in any of the findings. We know he was from Scotland, and we think the circumstances of his entry into the United States played a big part in keeping his name unknown to our family in Tennessee as well as to family members in other states. I'm sure there are other Stuarts who have researched their heritage more extensively than we have, because it has been several years since my husband's aunt first started tracing ours.
Last year in August, the Stuarts held their first family reunion in Cleveland, Tennessee. We met cousins and many Stuarts we had never heard of, and what a day we had. I think we did more talking than eating. This reunion has sparked the curiosity of many Stuarts in Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana and Florida, just to mention a few, who plan to continue the search for more Stuarts living anywhere in the United States. My husband and I enjoyed the day tremendously; however, after meeting all of them and trying to remember names and places of residences, we never heard one single Stuart tell of the first Stuart to enter this country.
If my memory serves me correctly, and I think it does – I don't think I could ever forget something as exciting and mysterious as this story told to me by my husband's grandmother – this is supposed to be kept secret, but as we all know, nothing can be kept secret forever. The first Stuart came to America as a stowaway on a ship from his hometown because he had fought and killed a man in a boxing match, which carried a prison sentence or possible execution in those days. We know the Stuarts have a reputation for standing their ground with anyone who crosses their path, intentionally or unintentionally.
My husband's grandfather was a foreman in several lumber camps in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, from Tennessee to the hills and mountains of Chico, California. He always took Grandmother Stuart with him and built a cabin near his camp until it was time to move to another area of the vast forest of trees to be cut and milled into the fine woods used in that era.
I remember an exciting story Grandmother told me one night about their life in the hills near Chico. She told of preparing Grandfather Stuart's dinner bucket. She made biscuits spread with jelly or meat of some kind. She also made fried fruit pies, all of which were put in a pail for his noontime meal. Sometimes he would work late and walk home long after dark, with only a candle in a bucket for a light to help guide him along the path to the cabin. It was about a mile from the lumber camp. While walking home from work, he often heard footsteps close by. He thought it was only a dog. When the animal would get within a few feet of him, he would shake his dinner bucket at the animal to scare it away for a few minutes. Soon the animal was near him again. This was something he experienced often on his way home from work. One night the animal followed him most of the way home, almost to the cabin door. Grandmother saw the animal and realized the danger he was in. She screamed to him that a mountain lion was at his side. She quickly opened the door, and he dashed to safety.
The most mysterious story she told me was of their life in the many lumber camps across this country. Grandfather Stuart was a fearless, quiet, respectable man, but a man could be pushed just so far: beyond that point his opponent had the devil to contend with. Although he was a relatively small man, he could whip, "with only his fist," any man in any of the lumber camps for miles around. The men of those lumber camps soon found this to be true as they often held fist-fighting matches between the different lumber camps.
Soddy Daisy, Tennessee
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.